INTERVIEW MADIYAH AL SHARQI

The queen of Middle Eastern couture

Sheikha Madiyah Al Sharqi is the daughter of the Ruler of Fujairah (UAE), His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, and she grew up immersed in high fashion. From an early age she witnessed tailors custom-making lavish gowns, and she fell in love with the design process. She launched her eponymous label after interning under respected Lebanese designer, Abed Mahfouz, following her graduation from prestigious French fashion university, Esmod. In her short career, Al Sharqi has been a finalist in the International Woolmark Prize competition, as well as winner of ‘Best Fashion Designer’ at the 2013 Arab Woman Awards.

How would you describe the typical Madiyah Sharqi woman?

She’s definitely a present-day Marie Antoinette—a powerful young woman! 

Your designs are very modern—do you ever take inspiration from your culture and heritage?

I usually get inspired when I travel, but at the same time I like to merge Eastern with Western influences. As an Arab woman myself, I always ensure that my designs are appropriate for Arab women, but at the same time I try to eliminate any sense of stereotype.  


You use lots of crystals in your designs; what impact do you feel they have on your designs?

Crystals give a glamorous feel to a design that fabrics alone cannot achieve. They can instantly transform an outfit from casual to elegant.


What is your favorite part of being a designer?

Seeing my sketches come alive and watching the transformative process that the pieces go through on their way to their final outcome.


Where do you see your brand in the next five years?

I never plan too far ahead—the fashion industry constantly surprises, with new trends emerging every day. I prefer taking it one step at a time.


What’s the biggest challenge you have faced as a designer in the Middle East?

We’re slowly benefiting from the support systems around us, such as the fashion schools, media, etc. The only challenge I feel we are still facing is production—we don’t have enough factories, and we also don’t have a very wide variety of fabrics, which is why most of us travel to Europe every season to source the right materials.


How do you start a collection? Is it from a specific fabric, a muse, an era, etc?

Lately, I’ve had a slight obsession with pastel colors, because they’re so feminine and they go well with the cuts I’ve chosen for this collection. In terms of fabrics, I experimented with checkered pink and white gingham to capture a Sixties feel. I keep my cuts fairly simple by using jacquards as a base, but then I like to get creative and with lace and organza.


Which international designers do you look up to?

I admire the likes of Ricardo Tisci and Phoebe Philo.

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